For a few years now, I’ve been building a vintage aluminum coffee pot collection. Read on for a little bit of history and why I love these vintage coffee pots.
The Beginnings of My Vintage Aluminum Coffee Pot Collection
A few years ago, I found an amazingly cute aluminum coffee pot with a red Bakelite handle at an outdoor flea market while shopping with family. It seemed very retro to me, and I was thoroughly into decorating with vintage red and aqua, especially in my kitchen. I’d never seen anything like it before, so I happily bought it.
This piece has a lovely knob on the lid that’s shaped a bit like a cut diamond.
I love the shape of the handle, made from red Bakelite. This one has a metal bracket under the bottom edge of the handle, more for heat protection than support, I assume.
There is a maker’s mark underneath this coffee pot. It says Supreme Aluminum Ware, M.S. Ltd. Made in Canada.
All I could find out about Supreme Aluminum Industries Ltd, was that it was located in Scarborough, Ontario. They produced a lot of aluminum housewares during the 1930s. They stopped production during WWII to manufacture other products, and then returned to manufacturing housewares after the war. I believe that they manufactured products under Supreme, Wear-Ever (the Canadian branch of the US company) and Presto.
A Lucky Second Find
A few days after purchasing the first coffee pot, we were antiquing again. Amazingly, I found a second aluminum coffee pot with a red Bakelite handle in an antique shop in a small town. The handle looked burnt, and so it was a good deal. I couldn’t believe that I had found another one so soon.
The bottom of the base seems a bit wonky on this coffee pot, so it doesn’t sit quite level.
This coffee pot has a knob on the lid that reminds me slightly of a tulip.
Bakelite was the first thermosetting plastic, meaning that it couldn’t be melted or changed after it was shaped. However, this handle shows that it can indeed scorch when over a stovetop.
There is no maker’s mark on this coffee pot, so I don’t know much more about it.
Lots of Black Vintage Aluminum Coffee Pots
After buying those two coffee pots, I tried researching them, and didn’t get very far. There were so many aluminum coffee pots with black Bakelite handles for sale, but I couldn’t even find any examples of others with red handles.
It felt crazy that I had found two, a couple days apart and in different places. The red handles that I found definitely made my coffee pots feel special.
Another Addition to My Collection
In all the years since finding the first two coffee pots, I’ve never found another. But then last year I added two pieces to my collection.
First, last fall, I stumbled on an aluminum tray with red handles in a local shop.
It was affordable, and I thought it made a good addition to my collection of vintage aluminum and red Bakelite. Currently I have potted plants on it in the dining room.
Then, last winter I was searching on Etsy and I found another coffee pot with a red Bakelite handle and great label on it. I decided to order it and add it to my collection.
I love this one. It has a curved spout, and handle similar to the first coffee pot I found. But the pot has more curves, especially where it narrows at the base.
And it has such a great label on it. It reads: filtro (trade mark) Coffee Maker, Patent Pending, Made in Canada by Serv-o-matic LTD. Toronto, Ont.
This handle has a nearly identical shape to the Supreme coffee pot, but it doesn’t have the aluminum bracket at the base.
The knob on this lid is sort of a rounded diamond shape.
Are They Coffee Pots, Teapots or Percolators?
All of these years, I’ve kept an eye out for more pieces to add to my collection – both while shopping in person, and searching online. Again, I’ve found many with black handles, but can barely find an image of one with a red handle.
I was not even sure what terms to use to search for them. Were they teapots? Or were they coffee pots? I have to confess that I truly thought they were teapots because they were just a vessel with one single open chamber. How can you make coffee in that?
But when I was doing research for this post, I made an interesting discovery that’s changed how I view these coffee pots.
Originally Aluminum Drip Coffee Pots
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While doing research for this post, I stumbled across a set of images from 2013 on the Facebook page of Black Cat Antiques in Thunder Bay, ON. I immediately noticed that the base is identical to my Filtro coffee pot. Only this one has a top section to turn it into a drip coffee pot. I had no idea that this is how they were originally.
I contacted Black Cat Antiques and they graciously allowed me to use one of their photos so I could show the second part of this coffee pot.
Then I was searching on Etsy and I found another example in a listing from CinnamonGirlStuff. Here the base section looks nearly identical to the unidentified coffee pot, only this one has red and lime green handles. Again, I was so excited to discover this is how it originally was.
I reached out to Ronna, the owner of the Etsy shop selling this super cool piece, and she also kindly allowed me to use two photos to show you the original parts. Below are the different pieces that stack to make coffee.
I found a third example of a vintage aluminum coffee pot as well that was a double-decker drip pot with red handles. I was so surprised that after searching for years, that I finally found these examples of two-part coffee pots that I’d never seen before. Finally, it made sense to me that they were coffee pots and not tea pots.
But my biggest question is, what happened to the other halves of all of mine? They each have their lid for the base section, but without their top section, they’re not very useful for making coffee.
A Bit of History About Vintage Aluminum Coffee Pots
Aluminum cookware and housewares became popular in the late 1800s. Prior to that, copper and cast iron cookware were the most popular. And then for a period of time, aluminum almost completely replaced them.
The benefits of aluminum cookware are that it is lightweight, it heats up and cools down quickly, and it is resistant to corrosion.
What is Bakelite?
Bakelite is a form of art plastic used heavily in the 1930s to 1950s. At first, black and brown were the only options, but in the 1920s, different colours of Bakelite were introduced. These colours were therefore added into kitchens as part of housewares.
As mentioned above, Bakelite is a thermosetting plastic that wasn’t supposed to be melted or changed by heating.
Is it Safe to Use Vintage Aluminum?
The Government of Canada maintains that aluminum is a safe cooking material. They note that aluminum can leach out of the pots into food in a very small amount. The amount can increase with acidic foods, and that the longer the food is cooked or stored in aluminum, the more aluminum it absorbs. As well, the more worn or pitted the pots are, the more easily aluminum leaches into the food.
In addition, aluminum pots can overheat and lead to molten aluminum.
For these reasons, and because the finishes on the inside of the percolators are in a variety of states, I won’t be using my vintage aluminum coffee pots. They will be strictly for decor purposes. I’d both rather be on the safe side, and maintain them in as nice of condition for as long as I can. Particularly the one with the filtro label on it. (Plus, I don’t drink coffee so I don’t really feel a need to start drinking coffee just to use these pots).
You can do your own research and judge the interior of whatever vintage coffee pots you buy to decide if you want to use them or not, but I recommend keeping them for decor only.
Why I Love These Vintage Aluminum Coffee Pots
Because of these dates of the Supreme Aluminum and Bakelite production, I believe that my coffee pots are likely from the 1930s, or possibly after WWII.
I love everything about the shape and form of these coffee pots, from the shape of the pots, to the spouts, the handles, and the knobs on top. They are similar, yet all different, and feel very sculptural.
I like the contrast of the cool aluminum with the warm red handles. As well, I like that they are somewhere in between dull and super shiny. Their retro style makes me think of simpler times, and my favourite part is the red Bakelite for a bit of a pop art feel.
What is the Difference Between a Drip Pot and a Percolator?
When searching for either vintage or modern coffee pots, you will see a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. Percolators are coffee pots with one single chamber and there is a basket attached to a tube or a pump stem that sits on the bottom of the pot. Water comes up through the tube into the basket with coffee grounds and passes back through in a continuous cycle.
In a drip coffee maker, boiling water is poured on top of the coffee grounds which passes through once by gravity. Drip coffee makers will have two visible chambers stacked on top of each other.
Where Can I Find Other Vintage Aluminum Coffee Pots?
If you’d like to purchase your own vintage aluminum coffee pot or percolator, keep your eyes peeled while you’re out vintage and antique shopping. You might stumble across something adorable – likely one with a black Bakelite handle.
If you want to purchase one straight away, or choose from a variety of options, try searching on Etsy. I usually try a variety of search terms such as vintage percolator bakelite, stovetop percolator, or vintage aluminum coffee pot. I love seeing all the different styles and shapes.
Modern Stovetop Coffee Pots and Percolators, in a Vintage Style
Or perhaps you’d rather have a modern but vintage-style percolator that you can use while you’re camping, or on your stovetop. Most vintage style coffee pots are percolators, rather than drip pots. But you can buy a vintage style double-decker drip pot, such as this one by Lindy’s.
I absolutely love that they are making modern percolators in vintage styles. I don’t drink coffee, but if I did, I’d love to use something like this GSI camping percolator, or this Farberware dishwasher-safe stovetop percolator. This Presto Electric percolator is also very tall and retro looking if you prefer an electric percolator instead of a stovetop variety.
Collecting Vintage Aluminum Coffee Pots
I want to hear from you. What do you think about these vintage coffee pots? Have you ever seen any while you’ve been shopping? Would you collect any for decorative purposes? Would you use a new pot or percolator that looks like it’s a vintage style? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
All the best,